Hundreds of train buffs lined the rails at the N.C. Transportation Museum on Thursday for a chance to photograph an iconic steam engine before it leaves the state this weekend.
The Norfolk & Western Class J 611, one of the last steam engines ever built, is well-known among train enthusiasts worldwide and widely considered a mechanical and visual specimen. On Saturday, the engine is scheduled to return to Roanoke, Va., where it was built in 1950, after a year-long restoration at the transportation museum in Spencer.
Before its departure, the museum gave dedicated fans a chance to spend $250 each to get close to the freshly painted locomotive. They came from across the country and the world to see the engine run around the grounds through recreated scenes from its original service in the 1950s.
“It was probably the best steam passenger locomotive ever built,” said Jim Wrinn, 54, editor of Trains Magazine. “It’s known the world over.”
Yoshitaka Matsuo, 52, of Tokyo took a 20-hour flight to see and photograph the engine. The train has long been of special interest to him, and he said he had been looking forward to the opportunity to see it since 1994, when the engine made ...